13 Interesting Questions and Answers
Information printed on products and packaging contain information for supply chain efficiencies and to meet regulatory requirements varying with industrial sectors. Quality & safety has become a major concern in recent years requiring additional information for both the consumer, government agencies, and manufacturers/packagers.
2. Who decides what has to be printed on products?
There are twelve Federal Agencies that govern requirements for marking and coding commercial products in the United States. These agencies govern more than 22 business sectors. There are regulations from (NIST) National Institute of Standards and Technology . These contain the ( UPLR) Uniform Packaging & Labeling Regulations, and (FPLA) Fair Packaging & Labeling Act.
Imported products must conform to Title 19, United States Code, Chapter 4, Section 1304 and 19 CFR 134, Country of Origin Marking regulations. Each business sector may have to comply with multiple labeling regulations and agency rules.
3. What are best before dates and expiration (expiry) dates?
Consumers are at times confused by the two different terms and marking. Refrigerated products and staples that may be stored at home often have both dates. In the United States the USDA, United States Department of Agriculture , regulates food product dating. Under the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service there was guidance on using the following terms in labeling.
● A “Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or
quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
● A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for
inventory management. It is not a safety date.
● A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at
peak quality. It is not a safety requirement except for when used on infant formula
as described below.
● A “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
These dates are used by manufacturers to help consumers decide when food is of the best quality. With the exception of infant formula, dates are not required by law or pertain to the product’s safety.
9. What kind of markings are printed on medicines to prevent counterfeiting?
Many steps have been taken with packaging and marking of medicines to prevent tampering and counterfeiting. Pharmaceutical companies often use a computer-generated encrypted 2D code on the packaging. These codes can still be variably printed on a packaging process line by specially designed printing and coding devices.
The United States Food and Drug Administration issued guidance on markings that can be detected to authenticate the drug product or dosage form back in 2011. These minute identifiers can be applied by printing using specially designed inks.
10. How do codes on gift cards work?
Gift cards and lottery tickets have variably printed security codes printed by high-speed marking/printing devices. The devices are tied to computer software that prints a variable code on each card or ticket. Each of these codes contain unique serial numbers of human or machine-readable characters. The characters can be fed or printed into POS terminals such that the cashier can assign a customer requested value to the card.
11. Do retailers have requirements of their suppliers for coding?
Walmart, Amazon, fulfillment houses and other big box retailers do have suggested specific marking and coding requirements for suppliers. They don’t necessarily enforce it with their suppliers but mandate it for their customers. Marking on multiple sides of products and cartons simplifies scanning for inventory.
12. What kind of labeling is required on cannabis products?
In general cannabis products must be properly labeled to ensure customers know what they are buying and to prevent unintended use. The FDA does regulate Cannabis and Cannabis derived products, including Cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol products used in cosmetics may come under the FDA labeling requirements for those products.
The labeling required varies by state and by product use.The State of California has its own labeling requirements for cannabis products. Colorado yet different requirements for packaging and labeling . Oregon, still other regulations on the packaging and labeling.
13. Will label and marking regulations change?
Regulations will continue to change with new products, packaging, consumer security and manufacturing competitive drivers. Evolving technologies will make the process of labeling and marking products and packaging easier and more effective along with changing regulations.